We are trying to celebrate Christmas with Perry. Trying to strike a balance between recognizing the very real loss of Perry's first Christmas and celebrating the message of Christ, that we believe we will see him again. And somewhere mixed up in all of this is that we have a 3 year old who very much believes in the magic of Christmas and is concerned about details that almost no child her age is. "Does Santa bring presents to heaven? Are there presents in heaven?"
We replaced Perry's Christmas tree today. We bought a small decorative one that turned out only to be cold hardy to 45 degrees, and I have removed it out of pity for the small struggling plant. It is sitting in my kitchen window in recovery, with a brand new fertilizer stick .Emily picked out a sapling, and we are hoping that this one will have a long life and be one that we can overwinter in the greenhouse once Christmas is over. There are so many transient things I need as much permanence as possible. Thinking that this little tree might be hardy enough to serve Perry again next year is a nice thought, something to take care of for him that fills the void in a small way.
Friends, this seems a strange thing to say, but if you really want to show a parent that you care about their family, leave something small at the grave of their child. It feels as if the world has forgotten, but when someone left a small white cross I knew at least one person did not. I do not know who did it, but it made me happy. Much nicer than saying 'I am thinking of you', it meant "I really am, and I am thinking of your child too".
We also bought a baby's first Christmas ornament for Perry, it is Pooh sleeping. Emily had become fascinated by the nearby grave of Gregory, who was about the same age as Perry and has a Winnie the Pooh at his feet. She finds it better that "Perry's hideout" is by Pooh and by other small babies and children. I think she has almost adopted Gregory as someone else to visit when we go. When we have time and she wants to stay longer, she touches the lambs on the oldest tiny stones. I think it has the same effect on me, in that our family does not feel so alone in this journey. Other babies, other families have traveled this road, some around the turn of the century. I wonder what we will do for Perry's headstone. I know I want some sort of a statue, I know I want it to be something that people will recognize that the little boy was cared about. That hopefully will convey it enough that when we are gone, maybe others will grow to care about this little boy they never knew and try to take care of the site. Maybe another Mother, Father, or little girl will visit him and find something they can relate to.
So many of these babies were loved, so many families took comfort in the idea of a loving God who holds their children. So many parents faced the loss of their future. Next to Gregory's stone is a little baseball that is weathered by time. Some other Father wanted to teach his son to throw a ball. There is a small teddy bear statue, they wanted to continue to give him gifts. There are hands holding a cherub, they believe he is held by God.
I met Gregory's Father. He hobbled up to the front during visitation, his leg in a cast. He said he couldn't cook, and he handed me an envelope filled with gift cards. He explained his son was buried at the feet of his grandparents. I told him my daughter loved Gregory's pooh, and I couldn't tell if he was sad or happy. Someone else knew of his son, knew his name. You see, we will never come across parents whose sons are in cub scouts or in little league with our children. This is the only 'club' they will have, the little graves in a small church cemetary out in the country.
Tonight I am going to a candle light ceremony. My loss is so new that we missed the deadline for his picture to be in the slideshow, we had no clue such a group met back then. I am bringing a picture and the gnon.
Before we left the cemetary, Emily sat down on a stone and asked if the person buried here was in heaven. I told Emily I thought she was, but unlike babies and children that die, adults must decide to go to heaven. Emily then clenched her arms about her, in the universal toddler sign if defiance. "I am not going to heaven!". I explained that heaven is a beautiful place and that we might only have to go there when our bodies wear out. She said she didn't care, she wanted to stay here a long time. I hope that Emily has her wish, that she will stay here until she is an old lady surrounded by many generations that love her. I hope when the time comes she will be secure and not as afraid as the little three year old girl today.
As we left, caretakers came to add soil to Perry's grave. It will not be long before we are able, and have to make, the final decisions for our son. To pick his gravestone and place it carefully on top for those other mothers. It is my prayer that these future mothers may not need our comfort, that perhaps it might just be a reminder to never take time for granted with even the youngest that we love. We know to spend time with the Grandmothers and Grandfathers, but we forget as an extended family to look a little deeper at the baby in his parents' arms. We assume we have many years to get to know these little ones. We often take them for granted.